‘Liberians Proud of 13 Yrs. of Peace’

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Liberia’s first post-conflict democratically elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told a multi-stakeholder forum on sustaining peace through transition in Liberia that her countrymen and women are proud of the 13 years of consecutive peace and stability that they have enjoyed so far.

“Their hopes lie in a peaceful nation that will be able to improve on the opportunities that they will enjoy. We are proud of this peace and want to ensure that it is sustained,” the President said yesterday, Thursday, October 20, when she delivered a special statement during the one-day multi-stakeholders forum on sustaining peace in Liberia, which was held at the Monrovia City Hall.

Admitting that the nation faces difficult economic times, the Liberian leader said the meeting aimed to examine how Liberia can address issues that might tend to take away from the progress made so far and the progress that the nation continually wants to keep making in peacebuilding.

“There is no question about it,” she told the gathering. “Our economy is being stressed, following three shocks. The shock of the tenacious disease that we faced, thanks to all of you and to the diligence of our citizens, we were able to resolve it in an unanticipated shorter period of time; the shock of decline in the global prices in our major exports; and it should not have been a shock, but it is a shock of UNMIL’s transition for the unanticipated, accelerated pace of the transition.”

The President further stated that being able to combat the above shocks is the agenda her administration now has and those who are with her in examining and realizing the challenges know that she’s is making great efforts to ensure that the government maintains its full participation in the UNMIL transition.
“So far we are pleased that working with the [UNMIL] SRSG and his team here, working with the supporters in New York, through the Liberia Configuration as well as the Peacebuilding Commission, we have been able to keep on course with the drawdown and the anticipation that we are going to continue with this transition and have it successfully because there is a good reason to say ‘Liberia is proud in coming of age, in assuming its own security responsibility,’” the President added.
She stressed that although it is a challenge for her administration, “it is something that we must do for our own national integrity and our own national ownership.”
Pres. Sirleaf assured her Liberian and international guests, including representatives of foreign missions accredited near Monrovia, that Liberia will maintain in addressing her challenges.

“This government’s commitment to peace and sustainability is very sound and very solid.”

Making opening remarks earlier, Ms. Gwendolyn S. Myers, Executive Director, Messengers of Peace-Liberia, told the audience that the condition of the Liberian youth, with regards to empowerment and employment, indicates negative societal perceptions in some quarters about the potential for high-risk youths to cause instability.

“As to be expected, there are residual tensions from the 14 years of war with emerging structures both at national and local levels connected to former warring factions, like the national veterans. There is lack of basic social services, education, health security, lack of communication and inactive participation of young people, low family values or moral values and a weak private sector,” she stated.

Ms. Myers, who represented the youth on the high table, where President Sirleaf and Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara were seated, informed everyone that while there is a proliferation of youth groups across the country with very limited resources, there is no coherent approach to tapping into this valuable resource as there is lack of coordination of programs by the government and its partners.

The forum was organized by the Liberian government in collaboration with the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (UNPBC).

Making his closing statement, Mr. Olof Sloog, Vice-Chair, UN Peacebuilding Commission, applauded the Liberian government, including the President and her Cabinet, for “spending almost their entire day listening and engaging in dialogue with civil society actors.”

According to him, this doesn’t happen in every country around the world – which shows the commitment of the government and people toward maintaining the peace and sustainability.

“Every interaction across the floor has come with comments and showing the way forward; again this doesn’t happen in every country,” he stressed.

He urged the civil society to continue to constructively engage the government, adding: “Be bold, be peaceful, but be constructive.”

Speaking earlier, UNMIL SRSG Farid Zarif called on the participants to take and turn all that had been discussed into an action plan for implementation.

“There is so much potential in this country: a lot fertile land; plenty of water; able-bodied smart men and women. Put together, that is all we need to bring about the difference to change the quality of life in this country.”

Also speaking, Liberia’s Peace Ambassador, Rev. William R. Tolbert III, among other points, stated that as it relates to agriculture, there is a need for liberalization. “The policy needs to be revisited as it is very hard for Liberians to go to the bank and get a loan than for foreigners. Why is it so?”

The Peace Ambassador also spoke about rural to urban migration, which, he said is taking place and that in order to make and keep the peace, government needs to look at revitalizing the economy in communities, especially in former major concession areas like Bong Mines in
Bong Co; LAMCO in Yekepa, Nimba County; and Liberia Mining Co. in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.
For her part, Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara, who climaxed the day-long forum, called on every stakeholder to embrace the dialogue and work collectively with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for maintaining internal peace.

“We have come to the end of a very candid and inspiring exchange of views both at the technical and higher levels of government on the all-important issue of sustaining the peace during and after the withdrawal of UNMIL,” the Minister stated, as she thanked everyone for their participation and the “wonderful ideas that you have shared today.”

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